Some day in the middle of March I woke up at 2:00am and moved toward Jeremy. I wrapped myself around him and thought, “I’m going to miss him in my bed.” But, first, last October I received one of those emails about cheap round trip flights. I ...
Some day in the middle of March I woke up at 2:00am and moved toward Jeremy. I wrapped myself around him and thought, “I’m going to miss him in my bed.”
But, first, last October I received one of those emails about cheap round trip flights. I looked at it and saw that Jeremy and I could fly to Napa, CA roundtrip each for a total of $120. We could change the date without penalty. We originally thought we would go early December or maybe for the New Year but as those months approached we kept pushing the date back. Until we finally decided we could go for our 6 year wedding anniversary in April.
I couldn’t have known how perfect this timing would be.
In early March I was standing at our counter peeling vegetables and grabbing at hope as the sun made its descent. Jeremy came home and threw on his apron to help stir the veggies I was scattering into a saute pan. He was quiet and I knew he was trying to gently approach me with news I would not like.
“It looks like I will have to deploy for about three months.”
His assumption soon became a reality and before we knew it we were making plans for him to leave a few days after our anniversary for three months. This timing could not be worse. I was hustling to get a new Compassion Blog Trip under way and I was also still working on my book. We had loads of summer plans. Our lease was almost up and we were trying to figure out if we should stay or move…
I will never understand God’s timing. But I will always trust God. Because I have tasted. I have seen.
So our trip to Napa became an anniversary trip as well as a goodbye trip. I thought Napa would be fun but nothing to call home about. We’ve been all over the world together so I thought this would be one of those casual, quick experiences. But God surprised us with so much joy and so much love and so much fun.
Jeremy planned the whole trip. He had to help me pack because I had no details. “Do I need to bring a nice dress? Or just jeans and t-shirts? Heels? Or are flats ok?” Every morning of the trip I would wake-up and he presented me with the itinerary. This is especially unique because I am usually the trip planner. For most of our other trips I planned our days, not because Jeremy couldn’t or didn’t want to but because I knew exactly what to do and what to book and where we needed to make reservations.
Jeremy did not just find fun wineries for us to visit. He found places and events that were unique to my personality. The first day we went to a winery that had a kite flying event during lunch. Your ticket got you glasses of wine, a kite to fly, AND A HOT DOG! There was a hot dog stand and I nearly lost it. I love hot dogs. I have been judged for this. But this is who I am. So we ate our gourmet hotdogs and grabbed a glass of wine and a kite. We hiked to the top of the vineyard and overlooking gorgeous landscape we let our kites take flight.
Jeremy and I were actually the only ones there without kids. Although, Jeremy called ahead to make sure this was not just for children to which a response came, “Oh no, sir. We have couples without children come all the time! It’s for everyone of all ages.”
Jeremy’s kite happened to have the American flag on it. Right as his kite took to the sky a strong wind blew through and his kite literally took down all the kites of the children. The parents looked back at us and we all had a good laugh. We put his kite to the side and flew mine. As Jeremy helped me get my kite into the sky I felt wonder shoot back through me.
The trip had so many “Bri” things scheduled I could hardly believe it. There was the popcorn and wine tasting (I basically want to eat popcorn every night. Jeremy knows how strong the addiction is). Then there was a sensory food pairing. There was a restaurant that serves the best oysters (another deep love).
Jeremy would march me right up to the counters of the different places he picked and watched me as I talked to the chef or the server or the wine maker. I’d talk with the people standing next to me, behind me, in front of me…
Some people feel the pleasure of God when they run, or when they play music, or when they write…I most feel the pleasure of God when I am talking to, eating with, walking with His people. All of them. Everywhere.
If I ever questioned if Jeremy really knew me, or if he really sees me, this trip put an end to that. He tailor made a trip with me and all my joys in mind. He not only communicated to me, through this trip, how much he delights in me but he reminded me how much God delights in me.
Celebrating six years felt big. Our first year of marriage was some kind of amazing euphoria and I could not believe love and life could be so explosive (both for the good and bad). The other years were filled with moving three different states and five different homes. These years were filled with learning each other, and then realizing we misunderstood parts of each other – so we had to unlearn and then relearn each other. Every time we settled into a new home, we kind of had to resettle into each other too.
We came home from Napa and while I unpacked my bags, Jeremy began packing for his deployment.
When I tell my military friends that Jeremy is gone, the response is always the same, “Three months? Oh, that is not so bad. It will go by so quick.”
When I tell my civilian friends that Jeremy is gone I always get the same response, “THREE MONTHS?!!! That. Is. Awful. Are you going to be ok? What are you going to do?”
To be honest, I need to hear both responses. I need the calming reassurance that it is not so bad and I also need the room to feel the deep sorrow of being separated from Jeremy for 90 days.
I’m doing mostly ok. I keep myself distracted and busy. My sister is visiting! I have great friends in Hermosa! I keep turning to God with all my emotions and He keeps reminding me that He is here. That He sees. That He is good.
I am so grateful for a God who moves me out of my comfort zone so I can see more of Him. I’m so grateful for the Holy Spirit who reminds me to honor this journey God has for me. Not just the amazing parts of the journey, but the difficult parts too.
I am an extra creamy chicken piccata kind of girl. More sauce! More cream! This is basically my life motto.
But first…a confession.
I’ve barely cooked three meals in the past three weeks. Between travel and deadlines and exhaustion, at the end of the day I’ve succumbed to a bag of popcorn, or takeout while friends gathered. Last week I was in Oklahoma with Compassion and I was getting back to my hotel room so late that the only thing I could scavenge was a small bag of Doritos and an expired package of peanut butter crackers.
I know. A moment of silence.
My love for cooking lives in me. It is my passion and my art. But getting into the kitchen to begin the process takes some seducing. Practical Bri looks around at about 5:30pm after a long day and thinks, “But the kitchen is so clean right now and there are no dishes and do I even have everything I need to prepare a meal?” But the Bri that was made to worship and play and create responds, “But think about the smell when the butter and the onions hit the saute pan and start to mingle. Think about the house filling with the aroma of a meal that will nourish your people and carry them through the night.”
For me, to cook is to worship. I come alive in the kitchen. It is soul satisfying for me to thank God for the food He has given us and then to take it and create from the elements a meal. It is my honor to carry a hot pan of savory food to the table and then to invite my husband, my neighbors, our friends, to come and eat. I am most awake to this life God gave me and this time He has placed me in when I watch as my weary people rest at the table and are reminded how good God is.
In some mysterious way I feel the words of Jesus become a mission for my life when he spoke in Matthew 15: 32,
“I am unwilling to send them away hungry…”
This is our Savior. And I am all, “Amen! Feed the people!”
Chicken Piccata was one of the first dishes I learned to make when we got married. It is quick and easy. I keep most of the ingredients on hand at all times. We eat this dish at least twice a month if not more. I have been asked to make this more than once while visiting a friend. It is the kind of meal that turns hungry, weary wisps of people into filled, satisfied glorious bodies able to work and create and love.
And you know what people love about this dish? The tangy, savory sauce. So after a few weeks of making this dish on repeat to find the perfect balance of more sauce while not losing the integrity of the taste, I found an updated version.
Extra Creamy Chicken Piccata Recipe
The heavy cream makes the sauce so velvety and lush. The parmesan cheese adds the perfect saltiness to stand up to the white chicken meat. The lemon and the capers are my favorite! Bright citrusy lemon is essential. It enters the meal like a secret that every mouth wants to hear…or taste. The capers are the perfect little burst of briny zest. Little gifts.
Serving this chicken and sauce over a bed of something is a must. I’ve seen people spoon it over sauted kale. It’s traditionally served over pasta noodles. I generally serve it over zucchini noodles.
And then my friend introduced me to Cappello’s paleo noodles. It took me months to actually try these out and now I am forever hooked.
Here’s the deal. These noodles are absolutely delicious and from freezer straight into the pot take about 3 minutes. I’ve even had them for leftovers the next day and they are perfect. However, they are about $10.99 a box. So there’s that. Whole Foods carries them in the refrigerated department and they go on sale every once in awhile so I always stock up. These noodles are a treat for sure otherwise we stick with our zucchini noodles.
You can use chicken thighs or chicken breasts. I generally do chicken cutlets.
Prep everything before turning on the stove because this all cooks very quickly and comes together so nicely no one will believe it took just 20 minutes!
For all my sauce lovers, I’ve got you.
What is your go-to weeknight meal?! Where are my people who meet God in the kitchen? Solidarity! We are a curious bunch.
Extra Creamy Chicken Piccata Recipe
1 package fettuccini noodles or Cappello's noodles, or one zucchini
2 large boneless and skinless chicken breasts, halved horizontally to make 4 (or 4 chicken thighs or 4 chicken cutlets)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon coconut or olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock (to deglaze the pan)
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy whipping cream or half and half
⅓ cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons capers, drained
Juice of one 1 lemon
If using a package of noodles or Cappello's noodles, bring a large pot of water to boil. Follow package instructions.
Place sauté pan on medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Allow butter to melt and become bubbly.
Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Sauté the chicken until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes on each size depending on the thickness of your chicken. (Chicken is always fully cooked when it registers at 165 degrees Fahrenheit with a meat thermometer. To check the temperature of your chicken, place the needle of the thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the chicken.) Once chicken is done remove to a plate and tint with foil.
Take 1/4 cup white wine or chicken stock and deglaze the pan.
Add the shallot and let cook for about two minutes. Add the garlic to the oil and butter in the pan and cook, while stirring, until fragrant (about 1 minute).
Reduce heat to medium and add the stock and cream. Bring the sauce to a boil; season with a dash of salt and pepper; add in the parmesan cheese and capers and allow sauce to simmer for about 2 minutes until it thickens.
Pour in the lemon juice (note: if your family does not like lemon – start with adding only half the juice required and taste from there), allow to simmer for one minute. Taste and add any salt or additional lemon juice.
To serve, place chicken on top of noodles or steamed veggies and spoon sauce on top.
For Zucchini Noodles
Bring a pot of water to boil. Add salt.
Wash zucchini and cut off the ends.
Place the zucchini in a spiralizer with the thin noodle attachment
Run your knife through the noodles once or twice so they are not so long
Add noodles to the salted pot of boiling water
Boil for 3-5 minutes until al dente.
Drain and place on plate. Top with chicken and sauce.
Our Christmas Tree is still up and I don’ even feel bad about it. We just returned from several weeks in Colorado and now that we’re back we want to enjoy our own Christmas decorations. Besides, January is not the boss of us!
Also? Not feeling bad about this cheesy french onion pasta bake with mushrooms and rutabaga noodles!
I first learned about the french onion pasta bake from Half Baked Harvest. Insanely delicious. It’s like comfort food and all things savory had a baby. I swoon!
But I wanted to eat this bowl of decadence like 18 more times so I decided to find a healthier alternative to the noodles. Which is easy when you have a gadget that turns veggies into noodles!
Enter the ever forgettable but oh-so satisfying rutabaga:
It was kind of hard to get a flattering picture of this root vegetable – but like the good people we are, we know looks aren’t everything.
Why rutabaga? I really wanted to try something other than zucchini noodles or my forever favorite sweet potato noodles but I wanted something that was firm and could stand up to this rich broth. Rutabaga, you did not disappoint!
Here she is all ready for the party:
Now we’re ready.
Cheesy French Onion and Mushroom Pasta Bake with Rutabaga Noodles
If you’re having a bad day, just throw some onions and mushrooms into a big soup pot and it will get 200% better. Promise.
Really bad day? Let’s add some red wine.
This all comes together in one pot. Saute, simmer, stir…winning.
The best part is when we add the cheese. Because, cheese! I used gruyere. It has this sharp and tangy taste and is beautiful at melting. But you can also use parmesan.
Put your big pot of deliciousness under the broiler to let the cheese melt and get all bubbly.
Bring your people to your table and serve. Remember to invite me ;)
Full recipe below! I had to play around with this quite a bit because rutabaga noodles are not structured like pasta noodles. So be sure to follow the recipe :)
Cheesy French Onion Pasta Bake with Mushrooms and Rutabaga Noodles
10 minsPrep Time
35 minsCook Time
45 minsTotal Time
4 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 small sweet onions, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup dry red wine (or broth)
8 oz sliced portobella mushrooms
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth
1 rutabaga or sweet potato, spiralized for noodles
2-3 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
4 oz gruyere cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)
For rutabaga noodles:
Use vegetable peeler to remove skin. Cut rutabaga in half and put through spiralizer. Run a knife through noodles so they are not so long. Set aside.
Preheat the the broiler to high.
Heat butter in a dutch oven (or other oven safe pot) over medium-high heat. Once melted and slightly bubbly, add the mushrooms. Let mushrooms cook, without disturbing for 5 minutes. This will caramelize the mushrooms to perfection! After 5 minutes stir and let cook for an additional 3 minutes. Lower temperature to medium and add onions. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring every once in awhile, until softened. Add the Worcestershire sauce and wine, cooking until wine evaporates, about 10 minutes.
Add the garlic, salt and pepper; cook 3-4 minutes. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add rutabaga noodles and thyme. Stir and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in the half and half; simmer an additional 5-10 minutes or until noodles are cooked. (Should not be mushy.)
Stir in half the gruyere cheese and peas. Cook 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Top with the remaining cheese and place under the broiler for 1-2 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Having a foolproof holiday sangria recipe in my arsenal has changed my hosting game. Come one, come all!!
Gone are the days when, as a newlywed, I thought parties were for complicated recipes and fussy, planned out menus.
Nope. Bye, Felicia!
Now I basically have one rule for food when hosting parties – can I make it ahead of time?
A few weeks ago I hosted a Christmas party in our tiny home.There is literally no room for anything but simple in this quaint home. I planned the party to start AFTER dinner time so I only needed to provide drinks and snacks and my friends brought the most yummy cookies and chocolates!
The game plan:
1. A Crowd Pleasing Appetizer
Baked Fontina! The morning of the party I cubed my fontina cheese, sliced the veggies and set them aside until the party started. This dish is perfect because you can throw it into the oven as guests arrive. And it is a crowd pleaser every time!
2. Something Wrapped in Bacon :)
Bacon Wrapped Sweet Potato Fries. A few hours before guests arrived I sliced up the sweet potatoes and wrapped them in bacon. I put these little gifts on a sheet pan and set it in the refrigerator. 40 minutes before guests arrived, all I had to do was throw them in the oven!
I call them the disappearing treat.
3. Always Room for Nog
Two days before the party I made homemade eggnog. Right before guests arrived I set-up an egg nog station complete with rum, mugs and cinnamon sticks.
I also make a spa water one day ahead of time. Pour filtered water into a pitcher and add frozen strawberries and a few sprigs of fresh mint. It’s so refreshing and pretends to be fancy (but it’s so easy)! It’s perfect to keep your guests hydrated or for anyone who prefers to drink water. I love using this pitcher for spa water because the water gets perfectly infused without having the berries and mint clog up the pouring spout! It also looks so pretty on the table!
The star of the show?! My holiday sangria recipe. This is fool-proof. And festive! And you can make a big batch so serving drinks to your guests is so easy. I always make this for New Year’s Eve.
It can also be made up to three days in advance – it gets better with time!
5. Holiday Sangria Recipe
I already have a sangria recipe that I LOVE. So I just took that recipe and made it extra festive with a spiced honey syrup. This honey syrup is about to make all your drinks cozy for the cold months.
When a recipe calls for simple syrup – I make honey syrup because I rarely have white sugar on hand. Honey syrup never disappoints and it is healthier than white sugar. The important thing is to get honey that has a mild taste – like clover honey.
We make this the way we make simple syrup. Equal parts water and equal parts honey. I make a jar full to carry us through to warm weather. Add 1 cup clover honey to 1 cup water and simmer on the stove until incorporated (about 5 minutes).
Now to make it holiday ready – remove the simple syrup from the heart and add 2 cinnamon sticks, 6-8 whole cloves and 2-3 strips orange peel. Cover and allow to cool for about 20-30 minutes. This will allow the spices to infuse our simple syrup.
Once cooled – strain the syrup and pour into a mason jar. This will last for one month!
You can use this for the holiday sangria but you can also use it for your tea, coffee, mixed drinks (like an Old Fashioned – it is perfect), or to spice up your egg nog. Anything really!
Now we are party ready! Simple, make ahead dishes and drinks so you can be with your people! Holiday Sangria recipe below. xoxo
What are your favorite holiday party recipes?!
The Best Holiday Sangria Recipe
For the Honey Simple Syrup
1 cup honey (clover honey is preferable)
1 cup water
2 cinnamon sticks
6-8 whole cloves
2-3 strips of orange peel
1 cup cranberries, fresh or frozen
2 bottles fruity red wine (I like to do a cheap red blend)
1/2 cup orange-flavored liqueur
1 apple, chopped
1 pear, chopped
1 orange, chopped
Combine the honey with 1 cup water in small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium high heat (about 5-8 minutes).
Turn off heat and add the cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and orange peel. Allow to cool (about 20-30 minutes).
Once cooled, strain and place in an airtight jar. Will last in the refrigerator for up to one month.
Combine the wine and liqueur into a pitcher with a lid. Add the apple, pear, orange and cranberries. After honey syrup is cooled add 1/2 cup (or more to your sweetness) to the mixture. I like to start with just 1/2 cup and add more if needed or allow my guests to add more to their liking. Seal lid and refrigerate for at least 5 hours and up to 24 hours. Give a good stir and serve with fresh fruit as a garnish!
Listen, I have craved chili approximately 0 times in my life. And that’s being generous. But the weekend after Thanksgiving I wanted two things, cold weather and chili.
I could not do much about the cold weather because it is Southern California. But we did put our tree up after basically rearranging our tiny space for said tree. And I opened my cabinets to see that I actually had everything for what would be my kind of perfect chili.
Cold Weather Chili Recipe, Quick & Easy
(without Losing the Flavor!)
Just chop all the veggies you have on hand! This is best done while listening to your favorite podcast or better yet, Christmas music!
Also? I fried up bacon and that’s about the time when Jeremy and Stout showed up in the kitchen.
Bacon- bringing families together for 800 decades.
I removed the bacon from the pan and left in about 1 teaspoon of bacon fat, I added all the chopped veggies and sautéed them until tender.
This chili is so easy because we basically get to dump everything in the pot. Using red wine to deglaze and tomato paste gives this chili a really rich, bold flavor.
It’s flavorful and it is so good especially the next day (isn’t chili always best the next day?). If you need comfort in the cold maybe pull out your soup pot and pull everyone close?
The fun part is letting everyone top their chili just the way they like it. Sour cream, bacon, jalapeños, hot sauce, cheddar cheese, cilantro…all the things!
Also, these bowls?! We purchased some oven safe soup bowls a few years ago specifically for Smitten Kitchen’s roasted tomato soup (see below!). Ever since we have been putting yummy soups in our bowls and into the oven.
Here’s to us weary, maybe cold to the bone, humans. I hope you bring to your table not just this cold weather chili but your stories too.
Cold Weather Chili Recipe
1.5 lbs ground sirloin (or ground beef)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped (omit it you do not want a spicy chili)
1 TBS chili powder
2 tsp salt
2 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup red wine, or beef stock or beer (choose your liquid!)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
In a soup pot fry up 4-5 pieces of bacon. Remove bacon and keep 1 tsp of bacon fat in the pan. Chop bacon for topping the chili with later. This step is optional! If you do not fry bacon just add 1 TBS oil to soup pot.
Add chopped veggies to pot and saute on medium high heat until veggies are tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Add beef and crumble while sauting until browned, about 5 minutes.
Add tomato paste, salt and all spices. Mix to combine about 2 minutes.
Add your liquid of choice to deglaze the pan. (To deglaze, slowly pour in liquid and use a wooden soup to scrap up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan).
Add can of tomatoes (with juice) and beans.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and add any salt if needed!
Serve with hot sauce, sour cream, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, jalapenos, cilantro or anything else you like!